In Iraq for 365

About my experiences in Iraq... the frustrations, the missions and this country... and the journey home

Sunday, January 09, 2005

John

John is a good man. He comes to the palace every night to iron our uniforms and sew our torn tops. "Business is fine. People come and go every day," says John, an Iraqi who works for us as an interpreter and runs a little business on the side.

He's also a Christian, a rarity in a predominately Muslim country. When I first met John, it was because I lost a pair of socks – my favorite pair – in laundry. I was mad, but this didn't last long after he smiled. He shook my hand and said, "sergeant, I am very sorry about your socks. I do not want to lose your business. Please, don't go to laundry at the bottom of the hill (his competition). I will personally do your laundry next time and will take care of your socks. My name is John."

John worked for a Civil Affairs battalion in Mosul. He quit because the unit he loved left and was replaced. He said he just didn't feel the same with the new soldiers. Plus, he received daily death threats. One of the people he worked for actually extended for six months while the others went home. That soldier was killed by a car bomb and the colonel's death affected John so much that he decided to work for us again, despite the dangers.

"If they can kill a man as good and generous as colonel Phelan, then they don't care about Iraq. I can't worry about my own safety. I returned because I want my country to be a better place."

People who work for us are targeted by the terrorists. As soon as they leave the compound, they are tracked down, threatened or killed. Many times, their death is taped by the enemy. John had a tape of him leaving the compound with a little note… you will die if you go to coalition forces tomorrow. They cannot protect you.

He may only translate words and iron DCUs, but he provides so much more. John gives the Soldiers faith in Iraqis. We've had so many Iraqis betray us and it's hard to trust them. John is different. John makes me want to fight to the death just to give his people freedom. Every day, I can't wait to see his face again. He's always smiling and always asks about my family. "Have you talked to your father? How is your brother?" And he can grow a beard quicker than any American I've ever met. The days he's clean shaven, I make a point to notice. John, you look 12 years old again. "Sergeant, I'm 30." We both laugh. It's a little routine we've developed over the year.

He played soccer and is still in good shape. The girls think he's cute and he's the kind of guy, who can cut up or be serious about his feelings. Today, I dropped off my last uniform to John. He knew it.

"Can I get my picture taken with you, sergeant?" This past year, I've been the picture taker and have very few photos of myself. But this is one photo I'd never pass on. You bet, John. I'm going to miss you.

180 Comments:

At 12:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think this is your best post. I've been really eager to hear the soldier's side of this war - the little, seemingly inconsequential, everyday stuff. Mainstream media just won't tell it. Tell John my prayer is with him and his family. Best of luck.

 
At 1:05 PM, Blogger JUST A MOM said...

I am sure you have touch John in the same way he ahs touched you. Know that every person we come across, there is a God given reason. Thank you for sharing John with us! Give him one last hug for us all! We will pray for him!
Hang in there!

 
At 2:38 PM, Blogger Tom said...

Gun or keyboard you are great. Thanks for standing the wall and writing these notes.

 
At 2:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Too bad we can't give you a big welcome in person when you arrive home. Thanks for introducing us to John. I forget that there are Christians in Iraq. I hope the Iraqi Christians won't be persecuted by the newly elected Muslim government when we leave.

 
At 5:02 PM, Blogger Bigs said...

Smink, I think you made alot of us addictive to your Blogger. We (I) look forward to seeing what you write next. Don't stop when you get back to the States. God Bless, and our family will be praying for John as well.

 
At 5:09 PM, Blogger CaliValleyGirl said...

You know...I don't think I can come to your blog anymore without a box of Kleenex next to me. The last few posts have been turning the waterworks on.

 
At 6:33 PM, Blogger Huntress said...

Smink....I hope John knows we all want his country to be a better place too!

I think John's gonna miss you too!

 
At 8:27 PM, Blogger AssyrianAmerican said...

Thank you for your blog and your service above all.

I just wanted to add that Christians are not as a rarity as you might think. They make up 5% of the population and are slated to have 10 seats in the new elected government.

Thank you again for your sacrifices.

DE OPPRESSO LIBER

 
At 8:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say that you have a way with words. I went and looked up your unit's newsletters and tourbooks/magazines that are online, with the photos. Impressed. Once you get back to Milwakee might think about compiling this into a book with some personal pics you took. Take care and God speed. Wishing you fair winds and following seas.

 
At 7:05 AM, Blogger Molicious said...

Wonderful post. How nice it is to hear about an Iraqi who is happy to have us there. I'm sure there are so many more, unfortunately their stories never get told. At least not on any news programs here in the States.

 
At 7:12 AM, Blogger Triplet Dads said...

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At 7:30 AM, Blogger L.R. said...

I e-mailed the other day about your poignant essays. What a touching story about John and how he reflects so many of the Iraqis who only want to work and have a peaceful life. Everyone is right; we will miss your blog when you come home--please keep writing.

 
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At 9:19 AM, Blogger membrain said...

Smink, I've only been aware of your blog for the past few weeks. Excellent writing. Thanks for a job well done. Keep it up when you get home. We want to hear about the Inauguration. All the best.

 
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I agree with all of those who commented above (including the one about the kleenex). Thank you for introducing us to John. Please let him know that there are a lot of people back here in the states who are cheering for him.

 
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Anyways Sminklemeyer, this helped. Keep it up, I'll be back.

 
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